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Priced out of Paradise: City in Transition
Miami-Dade is the most expensive metro in the U.S. for renters and one of the costliest for home buyers. This series explains why that’s so and what it means for the region and its residents. Our interactive tool helps renters and buyers match their budgets to affordable neighborhoods. Future stories will explore solutions to South Florida’s housing crisis.
Whenever Martha Falero nears the Miami Lakes condo she shares with her mother, she’s on the same familiar ground she’s known since high school.
Even while the town has grown — from about 23,000 in 2000 to about 32,000 now — “they’ve been able to preserve the charm and integrity of the town feel versus like a city that kind of is constantly evolving,” said Falero, 43.
Many of Miami Lakes’ signature markings — including cow pastures with live cows — remain the same. But business and population growth has changed the neighborhood, though Falero says the town has made an effort to retain its quaintness.
The median list value for property in Miami Lakes is $450,000, according to data provided by Zillow. But condos and townhouses in new developments have sprung up over the years, creating new options for singles, couples and small families with budgets of $300,000 or less who are looking for a quiet, family-oriented neighborhood. Some of these homes are “complete guts,” in need of serious renovation and upgrades, said Terraze “Taz” Walker, a real estate agent with RDS Realty. Others are ready to go as soon as new owners sign the contract.
Regardless, the condos, usually designed in the Mediterranean style and stacked close together, often go pretty fast. Walker said that homes are usually only on the market for two to three months. Condos in Miami are on the market for an average of 78 days, according to Miami Realtors.
The neighborhood is “up and coming,” said Walker, partially due to its proximity to major thoroughfares like Interstate 75 and the Palmetto Expressway. And for those who want to spend a day closer to home, there’s the popular Main Street center, an easily walked center of shops, restaurants and a movie theater. Local parks are also a family draw.
So is the town’s safety record. There’s a police station on Miami Lakes Drive, which Falero said makes her feel safe in the community. The personal crime index hovers at 90, below the national average of 100.
The sidewalks between condo developments and gated housing communities are often busy with families, couples, joggers and dog-walkers, even as the sun starts to set. Drivers are aware of the pedestrian risk, with signs dishing out warnings such as, “Don’t even THINK about speeding.”
The small-town feel must be working. Walker said that once people move into Miami Lakes, “they really don’t want to move out.”
Christine Villalona, for example, definitely wants to keep her family in Miami Lakes. She and her husband are selling their 1,459 square foot condo of 19 years because with four boys, they’ve outgrown the 3-bedroom, 2 1/2-bath unit. The condo, which comes with a small back patio but without a garage, is priced at $299,000.
Villalona says Miami Lakes feels like home because it’s an “everybody knows your name kind of place.”
Falero and her mother have also outgrown their condo.
Falero has lived with her 65-year-old mother, Martha Zafra, for nine years in a two-story condo in the Celebration Point community. The condo appears small from the outside, but opens up into a 1,240-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-bath unit. The condo’s most appealing feature is its large window overlooking the community’s lake, with a window seat underneath for lounging under the sun or stars.
Zafra, who lives on the second floor in an open-concept bedroom, put the condo on the market because the stairs were becoming too difficult for her. She and her daughter, who are shopping for separate new residences, would be happy to stay in Miami Lakes but are also exploring other areas. The condo is currently priced at $249,000 and comes with a $448 per month homeowner’s association fee.
The major drawback for Miami Lakes is its traffic, a symptom of a growing city. Miami Lakes had a 2 percent population uptick from 2017 to 2018. And it may only get worse if the nation’s largest mall indeed opens in 2023.
But Rafael Viera, the agent representing Zafra’s condo, said that traffic is a good thing for Miami Lakes.
“With prosperity you have growth and with growth, you have traffic,” Viera said.
▪ Population: 31,628
▪ Median household income: $72,545 (2013-2017)
▪Median age: 38.7
▪Main intersection: Miami Lakes Drive and Northwest 67th Avenue
▪Drive time to downtown: 36 minutes
▪Average School Grade: A
▪Personal Crime Index: 90
▪Property Crime Index: 108